Videogames are just the evilest. At least that’s what TV shows want to say, as every now and then an episode pops up to remind us all that these digital universes are gateways through Satan’s butthole and that they consume human life just as swiftly as someone falling into a woodchipper. I remember Full House doing it. CSI: New York did it with little intelligence or Googling. South Park did it with great jest when World of Warcraft was infecting fans left and right. And now, as of this weekend, I learned that Felicity–yeah, that show from 1998 to 2002 about a hairy girl going to college and finding herself–also partook in educating viewers on the damaging voodoo magic of controller-powered entertainment.
The episode “Crash” from Felicity‘s second season is described as so:
When Julie suggests that dating B-list people is a good way to get over her breakup with Ben, Felicity agrees to Prof. Sherman’s request to try dating her son David (Henri Lubatti). Meanwhile, Ben and Maggie (Teri Polo) shift to a more intimate relationship despite her concerns over their age gap; and Noel and Elena become obsessed with a video game.
See that last part? Yeeeeeah. The videogame in question is none other than Crash Bandicoot, the mascot that never came to be for the Sony PlayStation. It starts innocently enough and almost feels like a blatant advertisement for the game, with Noel gushingly playing solo, eyes wide and unblinking, remarking about how great these graphics are and how fun the game is and how much he ate up Super Mario Bros. one summer. Immediately, there are problems, with the constant habit of having gamers move erratically while being filmed, as if they themselves are dodging bullets or rolling boulders. Plus, the sneering from Elena is unfortunate.
Anyways, the other plots of the show move along with little interference. At some point, while Noel is on the phone, Elena picks up the controller and begins to play. When Noel sees this, he ejects, “You’re ruin my lives!” Which makes no sense as a videogame-related phrase and something a girl he is interested in overhears on the phone. Then he begins shouting at Elena to “repause” the game. “Repause!” he cries. “REPAUSE!”
Um…what? How about just “pause”? Sigh. And it gets worse.
After a really bad blind date, Felicity swings by Noel and Elena’s apartment only to discover them engrossed in the glow of the TV screen. Apparently, there were original plans to all go out, but now the two of them can barely mumble a response and Felicity leaves, but not before making a smarmy remark about “going outside” to her gaming friends. Eventually, the two of them get stuck on the final boss of Crash Bandicoot; Elena mentions she “knows a guy” who can help get them past it and grabs to the phone. The tips don’t help, and Noel ends up calling the guy a moron, which brings up tears and the revelation that the guy is no guy, but a seven-year-old kid, commenting again on the fact that videogames are just for younglings.
In horror, they turn the PlayStation off, and in the morning, Noel tells Felicity that he’s “too mature” for those things and regrets what it did to him and Elena. Sunlight warms their collective skins. Everyone’s diseases are cured. The horrible beast has been flayed. Cue happy song–something by Sarah McLachlan. The end.
Yeah. This was an infuriating episode to watch, to listen to. The way Noel talked about Crash Bandicoot was not even borderline close to how a normal college kid would talk about games. I would know. I did it all the time, with Final Fantasy X and Jak and Daxter and more being discussed amongst friends. You talk about them like you would a movie or a book or a class or a person or anything really. There’s no need to throw hundred dollar terms around or speak about processing chips. They are experiences, good or bad, and they can be shared without a feeling of shame, without rolling up excuses as to why I spent my Saturday night collecting the last Power Cell or whatever.
Ugh. I don’t watch much TV these days so I don’t know if the treatment of videogames has gotten any better. But in 1999, with Felicity, it was just the worst. Still not as bad as when she chopped her hair off though…